Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


THE DISPERSION OF GREEK EDUCATION    63

fashioned his son to virtue—an excellent work." It will be seen
that the lessons the boy got from his father belong to a less sophisti-
cated age than Cato's own. In their general character, indeed,
they resemble the staple tasks of Spartan and early Jewish
education. In addition to instruction in reading and the physical
training needed for a soldier's life, they include a study of the
"law"—that is, the Laws of the Twelve Tables, codified in
451-450 B.C.—which every boy from an early date had to learn to
chant as he chanted the rude warlike lays in praise of his ancestors,
and which continued to be a fundamental part of Roman education
till the First Century B.C. (Cicero, who was born in 106 B.C.,
tells us that he learned the Laws in his boyhood, and that at a
later time, when the learning of them was no longer customary,
he taught them to his son.) There was included also a study
of national history and practices, such as is common among
all peoples who have risen to a consciousness of their own
worth.

The practical character of Roman education before 250 B.C.
was even more marked in the case of boys approaching manhood.
" Among our ancestors," Pliny the Younger (b. A.D. 62) tells us,
" instruction was as much a matter of the eye as of the ear. By
watching their elders the young people learned what they would
soon be doing themselves, and what they in their turn would
show their successors."* The main concerns of a Roman of good
family were war and politics, and little thought was given to any
form of knowledge which did not bear directly on the business of
life. The book on the education of children, written by Cato as
a counterblast to the new Greek learning, dealt only with the
practical arts of oratory, medicine, farming, war, and juris-
prudence. The good citizen, in his judgment, had no need for
any knowledge outside these.

But in spite of the strenuous opposition of old-fashioned people
like Cato, the culture which (in Cicero's words) " poured in a
great flood from Greece to Rome " from the middle of the Third
to the close of the Second Century B.C., gradually submerged the
more primitive Roman life. The times, indeed, were ready for
change. Rome, having conquered Carthage by 303 B.C., was
driven by the inevitable urge of her destiny into the series of
struggles with the nations to the east that made her supreme in

* Epistles> viii, 14.